Swedish Medical Center teams settle in as opening nears

June 14, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Employees juggle deliveries, orientations as highlands hospital readies for debut

Technicians prepare medical equipment for the hospital’s July 14 opening. By Aaron Blank

The gurneys and greeting cards, mammography machines and mannequins, scalpels and Starbucks cups arrive in a seemingly endless caravan.

The pieces needed to open the Swedish Medical Center campus in the Issaquah Highlands started to trickle in months ago as the hospital neared completion. Now, as the July 9 opening celebration approaches, the trickle increases more and more each day to a deluge.

Inside the hospital, installation teams roam the corridors as construction crews add the last touches to the space. Downstairs, a physicist is testing a humongous linear accelerator, a piece of equipment used in the fight against cancer. On the loading dock, truck after truck drops off the interlocking pieces needed to operate the campus — a manifest encompassing medical equipment, office supplies and merchandise for the shops in the sun-splashed lobby.

The campus’ initial phase opens to patients July 14. The portion containing the hospital beds is due to open in November — earlier than the projected February 2012 opening date.

In the meantime, staff members, such as Susan Terry, director of interventional services for the hospital, continue to settle in.

“So far, we’ve been working in a very virtual world, so everything is on spreadsheets or pieces of paper or in our heads or on a computer or filed away in a box somewhere, so it’s hard to keep all of that information straight in your mind,” she said days before relocating to the hospital. “I think, for us, it’s going to be nice to be able to get into the real world and be able to actually see what we have, so that we can identify where the gaps are.”

Terry leads the interventional platform team, the group responsible for all procedural areas on the campus, including the operating rooms and cardiac catheterization lab.

“I think everybody is very excited to be part of something new, to be able to get in on the ground floor and help be a part of making it what it’s ultimately going to be,” she said.

The mastermind behind the move is Michelle Williams-Davis, logistics lead and process engineer. In order to coordinate the deliveries, she produces a list each morning and then, through constant communication, oversees the ebb and flow from packed trucks.

Because equipment is still coming, Williams-Davis and some other early arrivals work from lawn chairs in a high-tech command center.

Though the team is organized into shifts in order to smooth the transition to the hospital, “it doesn’t stop the emails late at night,” she said.

Despite the occasional logistics headache, Terry describes the hospital as a “1,000 percent upgrade” for the interventional platform team.

“Every time I’m out there, I have to stop at every window and take in the view,” she said. “Every view is just spectacular.”

Employees descended on the campus by the dozens June 13 as orientation sessions started to acclimate the team to the hospital.

“We think we’ve covered all of our bases but we know that we haven’t, but it’s hard to really identify where those gaps are until we actually get in our space,” Terry said.

The team is readying for the day patients shift from other Swedish campuses throughout the region to the highlands facility.

The imaging and emergency department teams should settle in before the end of the month. The completed hospital is designed to offer specialty care, including cardiology, oncology and obstetrics, as well as inpatient and outpatient surgery.

In the meantime, the move-in process continues across the state-of-the-art campus.

“It will be the first time that many of the staff have actually seen the space they’ll be working in,” Terry said as the interventional platform team prepared for the move. “They don’t have a clue what they’re about ready to walk into, so I think it’s going to be pretty exciting for everybody.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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